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How to help an employee with an online shopping addiction

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For some people, the rituals of shopping, the anticipation of the products and the endorphin hit of the transaction are more than just a necessity—they’re a real addiction. Compulsive buying disorder (CBD), like most addictions, often masks other mental health issues. While it may not cause visibly severe harm on a par with alcohol addiction, it can and does cause serious problems.

Shopping online highlights all the good things for a CBD sufferer—immediate endorphin hits, massive variety and selection, ease of spending without having to leave the house. The internet is the introvert’s dream, meaning you buy everything from essential items like food and clothing to luxury yachts without having to talk to anyone.

The danger is that the ease and immediacy of use make people susceptible to addiction more likely to fall into its clutches. And when you’re addicted to online shopping, you can find:

  • Your finances suffer, as you rack up purchase after purchase. Credit cards get maxed, more credit lines get opened, and the debt mounts. Eventually, you can destroy your credit rating, but the addiction remains.
  • Your mental health suffers—like any addiction, people who shop compulsively can feel a great deal of shame, hiding their purchases and falling into denial. This is stressful and difficult to keep up and can lead to depression, anxiety and stress—on top of all the pressures of debt.
  • Your work suffers, as shopping takes up every thought, and you spend more time on Amazon than with Excel.

It’s thought that as much as 8% of the population has a compulsive pattern of behaviour when shopping online. That means it’s very likely that someone at your workplace is struggling with an addiction. How can you help?


  • Try placing restrictions on certain websites. Most workplaces have web filters in place—these often have options for retail and e-commerce.
  • If your workplace allows employees to receive parcels and deliveries, place restrictions on these, don’t completely ban them, but a maximum of three per week should work.
  • Offer financial awareness training—A comprehensive EAP should offer excellent training and advice on finances and debt. This training is provided at a place and time that suits you and could make all the difference to someone staring down the barrel of money worries caused by addictions.
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